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Growth marketing roundup: cool SaaS, marketing lies, VR ads and more

One might think that a short week due to a U.S. holiday calls for a short weekly recap, but we have plenty to share about growth marketing from our coverage over the week. With the help of your recommendations, this week we were able to interview Peep Laja and Lucy Heskins, and publish multiple guest columns on growth-related topics including homepage testing, marketing lies to watch out for, VR ad opportunities, company-naming and ad compliance.

TechCrunch is collecting responses in this survey to find the best growth marketer for founders to work with. We’ve included some of our favorites, below the links.

This early-stage marketing expert says ‘B2B SaaS is actually very, very cool now’: Extra Crunch reporter Anna Heim interviews Wales-based growth marketer Lucy Heskins about her experience working with start-ups, how content marketing is best used, and more!

Navigating ad fraud and consumer privacy abuse in programmatic advertising: Did you know that “ad fraud exceeded $35 billion last year, a figure expected to rise to $50 billion by 2025”? Jalal Nasir, CEO of marketing compliance startup Pixalate, lends his thoughts about how business leaders and brands can ensure they don’t fall victim to the problem.

To stay ahead of your competitors, start building your narrative on day one: Anna also sat down with Peep Laja to discuss the importance of a startup being the one to write their own narrative and how it can mature with the company.

Demand Curve: How to double conversions on your startup’s homepage: Head of content Nick Costelloe looks at when it’s good to be unique, and when it’s best to stick to the status quo when working to double conversions on your homepage.

(Extra Crunch) Demand Curve: 10 lies you’ve been told about marketing: For subscribers, Costelloe goes through 10 lies you’ve heard about marketing, and what to try instead to create better results.

(Extra Crunch) Can advertising scale in VR?: Have you been on the fence about VR advertising for your company? AR/VR analyst Michael Boland lists out the pros and cons in this article.

(Extra Crunch) What I learned the hard way from naming 30+ startups: Naming a start-up might require more thought than you imagined. Marketing executive Drew Beechler takes us through what should be considered when picking out a name, like strategic alignment.

As always, please let us know if you can recommend a top-tier growth marketer who works with startups by filling out this quick survey.

Marketer: Nikita Vorobyev

Recommender: Ruby Club

Testimonial: “Nikita & his company, Buildrbrand, have worked tirelessly to bring my idea to life and did everything in his power to get it to the level it is today. He & his team created a world-class conditional quiz visual experience that I think would be really cool for him to share with the industry. He doesn’t know I nominated him, but I definitely wanted to give back to him in any way I can since I believe his agency creates some of the best brands going viral online right now.”

Marketer: Max van den Ingh, Unmuted

Recommender: Harry Willis, ShopPop

Testimonial: “They [have] shown considerable and demonstrable growth marketing success at various companies. One of them being MisterGreen, a Dutch Tesla-leasing company that had grown 10x under Max’s leadership.”

Marketer: Patricia (Patty) Spiller, Chief

Recommender: Livongo

Testimonial: “Hired her to lead Product Marketing and she identified the opportunity to do growth in a much different way, which could significantly accelerate our company’s growth. So, she founded the Growth Marketing team and scaled the team from 1 person to 30 people in less than 2 years, based on all the success they had in growing our member base.”

Facebook is expanding Spotify partnership with new ‘Boombox’ project

Facebook is deepening its relationship with music company Spotify and will allow users to listen to music hosted on Spotify while browsing through its apps as part of a new initiative called “Project Boombox,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Monday.

Facebook is building an in-line audio player that will allow users to listen to songs or playlists being shared on the platforms without being externally linked to Spotify’s app or website. Zuckerberg highlighted the feature as another product designed to improve the experience of creators on its platforms, specifically the ability of musicians to share their work, “basically making audio a first-class type of media,” he said.

We understand from sources familiar with the Spotify integration that this player will support both music and podcasts. It has already been tested in non-U.S. markets, including Mexico and Thailand, and that it’s expected to arrive in about a week.

The news was revealed in a wide-ranging interview with reporter Casey Newton on the company’s future pursuits in the audio world as Facebook aims to keep pace with upstart efforts like Clubhouse and increased activity in the podcasting world. 

“We think that audio is going to be a first-class medium and that there are all these different products to be built across this whole spectrum,” said Zuckerberg. “Of course, it includes some areas that, that have been, you know, popular recently like like podcasting and and kind of live audio rooms like this, but I also think that there’s some interesting things that are that are under explored in the area overall.”

Spotify has already supported a fairly product relationship with the Facebook and Instagram platforms. In recent years the music and podcasts platform has been integrated more deeply into Instagram Stories where users can share content from the service, a feature that’s also been available in Facebook Stories.

Microsoft updates Teams with new presentation features

It’s (virtual) Microsoft Ignite this week, Microsoft’s annual IT-centric conference and its largest, with more than 26,000 people attending the last in-person event in 2019. Given its focus, it’s no surprise that Microsoft Teams is taking center stage in the announcements this year. Teams, after all, is now core to Microsoft’s productivity suite. Today’s announcements span the gamut from new meeting features to conference room hardware.

At the core of Teams — or its competitors like Slack for that matter — is the ability to collaborate across teams, but increasingly, that also includes collaboration with others outside of your organization. Today, Microsoft is announcing the preview Teams Connect to allow users to share channels with anyone, internal or external. These channels will appear alongside other teams and channel and allow for all of the standard Teams use cases. Admins will keep full control over these channels to ensure that external users only get access to the data they need, for example. This feature will roll out widely later this year.

What’s maybe more important to individual users, though, is that Teams will get a new PowerPoint Live feature that will allow presenters to present as usual — but with the added benefit of seeing all their notes, slides and meeting chats in a single view. And for those suffering through yet another PowerPoint presentation while trying to look engaged, PowerPoint Live lets them scroll through the presentation at will — or use a screen reader to make the content more accessible. This new feature is now available in Teams.

Also new on the presentation side is a set of presentation modes that use some visual wizardry to make presentations more engaging. ‘Standout mode’ shows the speakers video feed in front of the content, for example, while ‘Reporter mode; shows the content above the speaker’s shoulder, just like in your local news show. And side-by-side view — well, you can guess it. This feature will launch in March, but it will only feature the Standout mode first. Reporter mode and side-by-side will launch “soon.”

Another new view meant to visually spice up your meetings is the ‘Dynamic view.’ With this, Teams will try to arrange all of the elements of a meeting “for an optimal viewing experience,” personalized for each viewer. “As people join, turn on video, start to speak, or begin to present in a meeting, Teams automatically adjusts and personalizes your layout,” Microsoft says. What’s maybe more useful, though, is that Teams will put a gallery of participants at the top of the screen to help you maintain a natural eye gaze (without any AI trickery).

As for large-scale meetings, Teams users can now hold interactive webinars with up to 1,000 people inside and outside of their organization. And for all of those occasions where your CEO just has to give a presentation to everybody, Teams supports broadcast-only meetings with up to 20,000 viewers. That’ll go down to 10,000 attendees after June 30, 2021, based on the idea that the pandemic will be mostly over then and the heightened demand for visual events will subside around that time. Good luck to us all.

For that time when we’ll go back to an office, Microsoft is building intelligent speakers for conference rooms that are able to differentiate between the voices of up to 10 speakers to provide more accurate transcripts. It’s also teaming up with Dell and others to launch new conference room monitors and speaker bars.